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Paul "Buddy" Banks Flatwoods Fish Catcher
By: Don Wirth

Flatwoods. Ky. Sounds like banjos and hickory-smoked hams and '54 Ford pickup trucks. And fishin'. Bass fishin’. In fact, Kentucky sounds like a mighty fine place for a lure company to be from.

And it is. Flatwoods is the home of the maker of a crude-looking little slab of stainless steel and lead and hooks called the Silver Buddy. Which is a fish-catchin’ son-of-a-gun.

Dale Hollow smallmouth ace Benny McBride (see "Secrets Of A Small-mouth Guide," March 1985 BASS-MASTER) counts the shiny little lure among his favorites for probing the deepwater haunts of monster small-mouths.

Billy Westmorland, the smallmouth bass king, wasn’t an easy convert, however. ‘‘He didn’t get very excited at first," says Paul "Buddy" Banks Jr., the creator of the Silver Buddy. Banks, a self-professed tinkerer, had given Westmorland a handful of his homemade baits following a fishing seminar.

Westmorland told Banks that he needed an in-between size for bass. He had a small size and a big size, neither of which looked right for small-mouths.

Banks, a yardmaster for the C & 0 Railroad, went back to the drawing board and came up with an "in-be-tween" version of his lure. After considerable field-testing and refinement, the Silver Buddy was born.

At first glance, the bait resembles popular swimming baits like the Hed-don Sonar and Cordell’s Gay Blade. But Westmorland points out differences: "The Silver Buddy has a wider wobble than similar lures. It has a medium-fast fluttering action, but not too frantic. It’s also excellent for vertical jigging, and it won’t tangle up when you cast, hop or jig it as often as will similar baits."

The lure is made by stamping the body from stainless steel, then pouring lead into the body in a mold, Banks explains. "We experimented with many thicknesses of stainless before we came up with the right action," he says. "The lure has a different weight distribution than similar vibrating metal lures."

Westmorland is convinced it's the sound, as well as the flash, that causes the Silver Buddy to provoke strikes. ‘‘The 2-inch version (1/2 ounce), which is the size recommended most often for smallmouths and large-mouths, produces tremendous sound waves that enable bass to find the bait fantastic striper lure, with 37-pounders reported. It’ll catch hybrids, trout, crappie. walleye - it's unreal for jigging on walleye."

It's also good on catfish and saltwater fish like blues and specks," adds Banks.

It's versatile in the way it can be fished, too. Westmorland recommends these tips for fishing the Silver Buddy and similar lures:

* Hopping Retrieve. "Make a long cast and tight-line the lure as it drops. Keep the line tight and pop it off the bottom a few feet so it hops toward you. Let it fall back on a tight line and 'ride' the lure back down to the bottom, keeping your line as tight as you can. Strikes usually occur as the lure drops." Westmorland employs this retrieve in the winter, when he parallels banks and points no shallower than 17 feet for smallmouths. "While the water on the surface may be only 40 degrees. it will be 55 to 68 degrees down deep where the smallmouths live," he indicates. Of interest is his method of paralleling points: "I parallel the point all the way around, starting at the 17-foot parallel, then working out to 20, 25 feet, or deeper as needed." The hopping retrieve is also good when the big smallmouths are on the high spots, Westmorland's honey.

* Slow Retrieve. "This retrieve is basically the same as that used when fishing another excellent smallmouth lure. the Spinrite," Westmorland said. "Make a long cast and tight-line the lure to the bottom, watching your line very closely. When the lure hits bottom. pop it off one time and then begin a slow. steady retrieve all the way hack down to the boat, following the contours of the bottom as closely as possible. When swimming the lure in this manner, keep your rod fairly low and out in front of you so you can stick the bait in the fish's ear on the hit."

* Verdical jigging." I use my graph to locate suspended fish or bass near the bottom in deep water, then stay on top of the fish with my flasher, which has the transducer mounted on the trolling motor," Westmorland recommends. "If the water is warm, I’ll let the bait free-fall to the bottom; if it's cold, I’ll 'feel' it all the way down. When it hits bottom, I'll snatch it up with a sharp sweep of the rod, varying the height it jumps from a foot or so to 5 or 6 feet, depending on what turns them on. I've caught big largemouths, smallmouths and spots, as welf as some huge walleyes by vertical jigging with this bait." In deep water with brush, the bait may be modified by removing two of the barbs from each treble hook if hang-ups are frequent. He jigs the lure vertically in the winter and summer.

* Schooling Retrieve. "The Silver Buddy is a tremendous schooling-fish lure, not just on largemouths but on any fish that schools," Westmorland says. "When you spot breaking tish, cast past the surface action, hold the rod high, and begin a fast, 'burning' retrieve near the surface. It' the fish are coming up, breaking momentarily, then going back down before you can get to them, cast past the last surface action you saw, burn the Jure with a fast, shallow retrieve, then let it drop on a tight line. Often the bass will nail it as it falls, thinking it’s an injured shad." A variation of this retrieve may also be used for fishing the Silver Buddy in virtually any shallow-water situation: "With the rod held high. cast the lure along shallow structure such as flats and points, and retrieve quickly and steadily. For brushy or weedy areas. clip two of the barbs from each hook – I've caught big bass in Florida in grassy places using this technique." Westmorland finds most of his schooling fish in the summer and fall, but says the fast, steady retrieve can be employed in most warm-water situations.

* "Shooting" Retrieve. This works well in spring and fall, when fish are in the 6- to 15-foot zone on flats and points. Make a long cast and tight-line the lure to the bottom, with the rod at 10 o'clock. When it hits. don't move the rod, just reel quickly five or six turns of the handle. Let the lure drop and repeat all the way back to the boat. fishing points by casting shallow and working the lure deep.

The Silver Buddy must be fished with a snap or split ring (not included with the lure), as it will cut your line if connected directly to it. Banks recommends a light-wire snap rather than a snap and .swivel, which will cause hang-ups when casting or jigging the bait. Westmorland adds, "Expect to lose a few. because this bait stays near the bottom – hut that's where the fish are most of the time."

The Silver Buddy comes in three sizes: 1/4 ounce (good for trout and panfish), I/2 ounce (for largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleyes and lake trout). and 3/4 ounce (for stripers and fishing in heavy current).

Bassmaster BASS Fishing Annual 1986 By Don Wirth Bassmaster Magazine






Silver Buddy is a Registered Trademark ® of Paul "Buddy" Banks
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